Far-Out Friday: Death By Pimple

Death_Pimple

I ran across this intriguing subject while researching an early Surname Saturday article about the Pimple surname.  I found several references to so-called “death by pimple” and researched further.  Clearly, the problem was due to lack of an effective way to treat infection prior to the late 1920’s and early 1930’s.

That’s not to say doctors didn’t try to treat infections.  There were advertisements galore during the nineteenth century hailing various “miracle cures” for all sorts of maladies, pimples included.  The first instance found in a search of “pimple” at Newspapers.com yielded an article about a suspect in the disappearance of a surgeon who “hath been set upon by some ill people.”

NOTE: This article is being re-purposed and will be included in a future edition of Digging History Magazine. Please check out our new site:  www.digginghistorymag.com.  Samples are available by clicking magazine image.  Regular monthly issues currently available for only $1.99. – Updated 1/20/18.

Book Review Thursday: The Mapmaker’s Children

MapmakerChildren

I really enjoy books like this one: historical fiction with a goal of writing not only a compelling story but educating the reader about a little-known or long-forgotten historical figure.  Such is the case with The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy as she juxtaposes the Civil War era with a strikingly similar modern story set one hundred and fifty years into the future.

The narrative alternates between two women: Sarah Brown and Eden Anderson.  Sarah is the daughter of abolitionist John Brown, afflicted with a childhood illness which left her barren.  Similarly, Eden is struggling with infertility in the twenty-first century world of hormone injections and the unsuccessful and frustrating attempts to conceive via modern technology.

As the story unfolds the reader will eventually get a sense as to the direction it’s heading as the two women’s lives (and their struggles) intersect.  Faced with the inability to bear children, both women struggle to find purpose in life.  For Sarah, she continues to champion her father’s cause by using her artistic skills to paint maps for slaves traveling along the Underground Railroad.

On the other hand, Eden struggles with her marriage and the failure to conceive.  Her husband Jack purchases a puppy for her, and although she regards it initially as insensitivity to her emotional needs, she eventually embraces the pet (named Cricket) and finds a way to move on with her life and later become an entrepreneur.  Through a series of clues found in her new home Eden begins to piece together an important historical link to not only the house, but the townspeople who have befriended her.  As you might guess, these “clues” are an intricate part of Sarah Brown’s story.

McCoy wrote in her author’s notes about a phrase that kept running through her mind: “a dog is not a child.”  After committing the phrase to her journal the first pages of the book outlining the modern setting of New Charlestown, West Virginia began to take shape.  A few months later the name John Brown appeared in her notes and she began to research, stumbling across the name of his daughter Sarah.

Eden is a character of fiction while Sarah is a fictionalized historical character, yet Ms. McCoy managed to make both of them come alive.  You’ll find yourself cheering both of them on to use their unique gifts and talents and find purpose in life.

The book is meticulously researched, including elements of the country’s mid-nineteenth century struggles with the slavery issue, John Brown’s cause, the Underground Railroad and its use of maps and children’s dolls to smuggle them across enemy lines, and much more.  A compelling, imaginative and well-written story for anyone interested in the Civil War era and the Underground Railroad.

Rating:  ★★★★

Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!

  © Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2016.

Military History Monday: Hello Girls of World War I

HelloGirlsDuring World War I they were officially known as the Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators Unit, but more informally known as “Hello Girls”.  The United States had been reluctant to join its European allies in the conflict, but when Germany began an all-out effort in early 1917 to sink American vessels in the North Atlantic, President Woodrow Wilson’s hand was forced.  He asked Congress for a declaration of war, “a war to end all wars”.  On April 6, 1917 Congress officially did so, engaging the Germans and hoping to make the world once again safe for democracy.

The British had been at war with German for nearly three years when the United States joined the effort.  With their men away fighting the war, large numbers of women were working in munitions factories throughout Britain.  Their work was dangerous as explosives and chemicals caused deaths.  The greatest single loss occurred in early January 1917 when a munitions factory in Silvertown, England exploded due to an accidental fire – seventy-two women were severely injured and sixty-nine perished.

 

NOTE: This article is being re-purposed and will be included in a future edition of Digging History Magazine. Please check out our new site:  www.digginghistorymag.com.  Samples are available by clicking magazine image.  Regular monthly issues currently available for only $1.99. – Updated 1/20/18.

Book Review Thursday: 1924: The Year That Made Hitler

1924

In a sane world it would seem a serious mistake to draw attention to and republish Mein Kampf, Adolph Hitler’s autobiography first published in 1925.  For years the book was purposely kept off the shelves of bookstores and libraries, thought to have been too dangerous for the general public.  The copyright, held by the state of Bavaria, finally expired in December 2015.

In late February 2016 the Washington Post reported the newly republished book, now heavily annotated to explain Hitler’s comments, was ranked number two on Der Spiegel’s bestseller list.  It seems fortuitous that this book by Peter Ross Range was released in late January 2016, perhaps serving as a counterbalance.

Heaven knows the voluminous tomes which could be (and have been) written about Adolph Hitler.  Range chose to focus on a brief period in Hitler’s life to give us a glimpse into the mindset of the monster who later perpetrated so many horrific crimes against humanity.

Hitler spent most of 1924 in prison after being tried for treason as a result of his attempted beer hall coup in early November 1923.  The “prison” was hardly what one would imagine for a prisoner accused of such crimes.  Instead, his private quarters and the year he spent there made it seem more like an extended spa vacation.  After being sentenced to five years in prison for his failed coup attempt, the judge immediately reduced the sentence to approximately six months (if he behaved himself).

Hitler, surrounded with like-minded prisoners, enthralled the captive audience with his speechifying in the weeks before the trial.  However, following the trial he set himself to make best use of the incarceration by devoting much of his time to writing Mein Kampf.  After studying material such as American Henry Ford’s anti-Semitic publications and receiving a new Remington typewriter he was prepared to put his philosophy on paper.

By the time Hitler was released in the fall of 1924, Mein Kampf was ready for publication, and as the saying goes, the rest is history.  Range’s use of Hitler’s own rhetoric gives readers a crystal clear look into the mind of one of history’s most despicable characters.  It made me wonder whether Hitler would have gotten as far as he did had he not been such a “silver-tongued devil”.

In the current political climate, I believe this book should be regarded as a cautionary tale.  As citizens we need to consider what is true and good and what is rhetoric and empty promises.  Anyone interested in the period leading up to World War II and Adolph Hitler’s rise will find this book a compelling read.  To paraphrase Edmund Burke, “those who haven’t studied and learned from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Rating:  ★★★★

Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!

  © Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2016.

Ghost Town Wednesday: Whitehorn, Colorado

GhostTownWednesdayAccording to a Fremont County, Colorado web site the population of Whitehorn was less than ten as of 2014.  Accounts vary, however, as to who founded the town in the mid-to-late 1890’s.  In one account prospector Dennis Patno came to the area in February of 1897, struck gold and started a rush to the area in the mountains northeast of Salida.  In yet another account the town was founded in May of 1897 by Arthur L. Whitehorn – according to a 1901 article published in the Whitehorn News, he was indeed the founder.

WhitehornCO_map

Whitehorn had recently been appointed as U.S. Deputy Mineral Surveyor in Pitkin County, having also mined around the Tin Cup area.  He set up his assayer’s tent at the camp some miners humorously referred to as “Suckerville”.  However, the specimens he examined were promising enough and soon the town named in his honor began to be laid out.

 

 

 

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Feisty Females: Sara Payson Willis, aka Fanny Fern

SaraPaysonWillisMarch is Women’s History Month and what better way to kick it off than to highlight the accomplishments of first female newspaper columnist and highest paid nineteenth century newspaper writer Sara Payson Willis, a.k.a. “Fanny Fern”.

Sara was born in Portland, Maine on July 9, 1811, the daughter of Nathaniel and Hannah (Parker) Willis.  Her parents had planned to name their fifth child after Reverend Edward Payson, pastor of Portland’s Second Congregational Church (five years later they named a son after the reverend).  Instead, she was given the middle name of Payson.

NOTE: This article is being re-purposed and may be included in a future edition of Digging History Magazine. Please check out our new site:  www.digginghistorymag.com.  Samples are available by clicking magazine image.  Regular monthly issues currently available for only $1.99. – Updated 1/20/18.

 

Book Review Thursday: Floodpath: The Deadliest Man-Made Disaster of 20th-Century America and the Making of Modern Los Angeles

Floodpath

After reading this book I have to wonder how I, having lived almost two decades in Southern California, never heard about this tragic man-made disaster which occurred on March 12, 1928.  I vaguely knew about someone named Mulholland who made a name for himself in Los Angeles and had one of the most scenic drives in Los Angeles named in his honor.  It’s almost like the City and County of Los Angeles swept it all into the dustbin of history, that is until author Jon Wilkman wrote this detailed account which was voted one of the best books of January 2016 by Amazon.

Although I’ve never seen the movie, fans of the 1974 movie Chinatown would have an idea of the background of the story.  The water wars of the early twentieth century which pitted the burgeoning city and county of Los Angeles against the farmers and ranchers of Owens Valley were marked by rancorous disputes and what we would today call acts of domestic terrorism.

Los Angeles had big plans to expand and grow and Owens Valley had abundant water resources.  William Mulholland, an Irish immigrant, had been involved in Los Angeles water matters since his arrival there in 1877, eventually becoming chief engineer and manager of the Los Angeles Bureau of Water Works and Supply.   Mulholland, a self-educated civil engineer and dam builder was well-respected, yet made some fatal mistakes when he oversaw the building of the St. Francis Dam in San Francisquito Canyon in the mountains north of Los Angeles.

The story of the dam breaking and creating a harrowing floodpath to the Pacific Ocean is riveting enough in and of itself, but the “back story” leading up to the disaster is equally compelling.  The technical jargon is a bit overwhelming at times, however (like me, you may want to skim through some of that).

There doesn’t seem to have ever been an accurate count of the deaths caused by the flood with estimates around five hundred.  Even before scientists and engineers participated in studies to determine the cause, the city of Los Angeles had agreed to pay reparations to the flood survivors.

A coroner’s inquest was held and Mulholland, visibly shaken by the tragedy, was called upon to defend his skills as an engineer.  With so many opinions as to the cause, it seemed almost impossible to determine who or what was at fault.  Would William Mulholland be indicted as a mass murderer?  The story was so compelling at the time, but why has it largely been forgotten?

Thanks to Jon Wilkman’s thorough research readers will learn about this important event which altered history in the sense that it brought public attention to the need for uniform safety standards, as well as standards for engineer training and certification.  Just a few years down the road the Hoover Dam would be built on the Colorado River, another vital source of Southern California water.

The book has a little bit of everything – engineering, history, intrigue, early twentieth century anarchy (making it read more like a novel instead of just a dry history book), the early rise of corporatism in America and more.  Anyone interested in learning about significant long-forgotten events like this one will find it a compelling read.

Rating:  ★★★★★

Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!

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© Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2016.

Tombstone Tuesday: Zilpha Etta Scott Dockery (1796-1903)

ZilphaDockeryShe was born on September 8, 1796 in Virginia and moved with her family to Spartanburg, South Carolina at the age of three, an event she remembered vividly in 1902 when interviewed by the Dallas Morning News.  John Scott was a farmer and the father of three sons and eight daughters.

While most of her family appears to have died young, Zilpha would more than outlive all of them, her life spanning three centuries.  When she was born George Washington was serving his second term as the first president of the United States.  Although Napoleon Bonaparte had just married Josephine his rise to power had not yet evolved.

“My people were hard-working people,” she declared.  “We worked in the fields with plows drawn by oxen and made crops that way for my father the year before I was married.”1  Her childhood dresses were made of flax cloth, although she fondly remembered the first calico dress she made.

 

NOTE: This article is being re-purposed and will be included in a future edition of Digging History Magazine. Please check out our new site:  www.digginghistorymag.com.  Samples are available by clicking magazine image.  Regular monthly issues currently available for only $1.99. – Updated 1/20/18.

Book Review Thursday: The Golden Lad: The Haunting Story of Quentin and Theodore Roosevelt

GoldenLad

After reading several books in the last two years about the Roosevelts – Franklin, Eleanor, Alice and Theodore – I believe this one is perhaps the most poignant one of all as it explores the relationship between Theodore and his youngest son Quentin.  He adored his children, and they adored him right back (with the exception, of course, of his first child Alice with whom he had a sometimes-strained relationship).

This book by Eric Burns focuses on Theodore’s special relationship with Quentin, or Quenty-Quee as he liked to call his youngest son. Perhaps more than any other of his children, Quentin was most like his father.  They shared on particular thing in common – both suffered from one childhood malady or another – so much so that it pained Theodore to see his offspring suffer, especially “golden lad” Quentin who would be the frailest of all his children.

Quentin was the one who “got away” with more than the older children.  When the Roosevelts occupied the White House, Quentin and his friends were known as the “White House Gang”, running up and down the halls, playing pranks, making mischief.  His spirit and joie de vivre were so much like his father’s it’s no wonder the two had such a special relationship.

Many books have been written about Theodore Roosevelt, he being one of the most fascinating and colorful people to occupy the White House.  I expected this one to focus more on Quentin, given the title of the book.  Burns, however, spent a fair amount of time writing about Theodore while interspersing stories which highlighted their special relationship.

Theodore was thought by many to have been the most war-mongering president to ever occupy the office of United States President, even though during his tenure the nation was mostly at peace with the world.  Serving as a colonel during the Spanish-American War and charging up Kettle Hill (yes, it was Kettle Hill and not San Juan) did little to assuage his thirst for adventure, however.  Following his presidency, Roosevelt later pushed Woodrow Wilson to join our allies in Europe during World War I.

All of his sons, even young Quentin, signed up and sailed across the ocean to fight on foreign soil.  Sadly, his beloved young son was the one who didn’t make it back, buried by German soldiers in the field where his plane was shot down.  The news crushed Theodore Roosevelt’s spirit and in this we see yet another side of him – as grieving father, perhaps feeling guilty for his insistence to join the war effort.

It makes one wonder just how many more books can be written about “TR”.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed this book immensely simply because it broadened my understanding of what made him tick.  If you’re a fan of the Roosevelts, Theodore in particular, you will find it a quick (about 200 pages) and excellent read.

Rating:  ★★★★★

Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!

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© Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2016.

Feisty Females: Sarah Jane Ames

SarahAmesWhen she died in 1926 Sarah Jane Ames was hailed as one of Boone County, Illinois’s “most virile, energetic, and withal most interesting citizens”.1

She was born Sarah Jane Hannah in Montreal, Canada on December 4, 1843, and in 1854 migrated to Belvidere, Illinois with her parents (Thomas and Jane) and two brothers. Save for a few years she spent pioneering in South Dakota, Sarah remained in Boone County the remainder of her life.

 

NOTE: This article is being re-purposed and may be included in a future edition of Digging History Magazine. Please check out our new site:  www.digginghistorymag.com.  Samples are available by clicking magazine image.  Regular monthly issues currently available for only $1.99. – Updated 1/20/18.

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  1. Belvidere Daily Republican, 22 May 1926, p. 2